LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California voters give Senator Dianne Feinstein the lowest approval rating of the powerful Democrat's nearly 20-year career in Washington, according to a poll released on Friday.
The Field Research Corp poll estimated voters who do not want Feinstein to win reelection in 2012 to another six-year term at 44 percent, compared to 41 percent who favor her.
That is the first time the Field Poll has seen a larger share of voters say they are opposed to seeing Feinstein win reelection compared to the percentage who favor her election.
Feinstein is chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and has a reputation for being more conservative than California's other Senator, Barbara Boxer, also a Democrat.
In nearly every Field Poll over the past two decades, voters who approved of Feinstein outnumbered by double-digit margins those who disapproved, researchers said.
But the Field Poll showed only 41 percent said they approved of her job performance while 39 percent disapproved, representing the lowest rating of Feinstein's tenure.
"There really isn't anything in the news about Feinstein that would necessarily precipitate that decline," Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said.
"So I think it's just the view of the overall (Congress) that is really dragging everyone down, and Feinstein is being hurt because of it," he said.
Feinstein has generally received higher approval ratings than Boxer in California, a state that is normally a bedrock of support for Democrats. The Field Poll results for Boxer, who is not up for reelection next year, showed 39 percent of voters approve her job performance while 42 percent disapprove.
A spokesman for Feinstein, who was first elected to the Senate in 1992 after a long career as San Francisco's mayor, could not be reached for comment.
California voters' unfavorable view of Congress has been climbing in recent years. In the latest Field Poll, the percentage of respondents who disapprove of how Congress is doing its job stands at a record low of 86 percent.
Feinstein has not said whether she plans to run for reelection in 2012, and her office has said that a campaign treasurer who was recently arrested stole a giant share of the funds she might use to win over voters.
The Field Poll was conducted as a random sampling of 1,001 registered voters interviewed by phone between September 1-12.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Peter Bohan)